Disclaimer: I don't own Tolkien's characters... I just borrowed them for a while.

HOME

When he closed his eyes, the soothing noises of the flowing water brought Frodo back to his childhood immediately. He remembered a day with his parents, gliding in a boat on the river, enjoying a warm summer's day. They had found a little place to rest just beside the river, where little streams of water were flowing into the Brandywine. Frodo had felt ever so sheltered, as if there were no harm in the entire world; even the occasional fights with some other lads at Brandy Hall had seemed fairly unreal.

And now here, in the gardens of Minas Tirith, so close to the stone well and the flowing water, Frodo realised that he would come home. He really would come home. And his dear, loving friends would do so as well. Frodo cringed at the thought that he nearly had made this peace and healing impossible by refusing to throw the Ring into the Cracks of Doom. If Sméagol hadn't ---

"Frodo. There you are. Won't you come in to have a meal after all these hours here all alone? You must eat."

Frodo smiled. "Thank you, Aragorn. I am not hungry at all! Am I sitting here that long already? I assume I was lost too deep in my thoughts..."

"You looked quite troubled when I spotted you here, Frodo. I hope my eyes betrayed me, for there is no need to dwell in dark thoughts or bitter memories anymore."

Bitter memories? Frodo grinned sarcastically and looked at his maimed hand. Memories. He would always be reminded of his failure that had nearly been fatal.

"Can you stop the thoughts when they start to flow and won't leave you alone? Could you throw the obvious guilt away from you and never think of it again? Oh, I wish I could do this, Aragorn. I so wish I could. But - no. Those memories return at night, and I cannot hold them back. Will time make them stop? Will there be healing for me, and for all of us? Sometimes I fear that things have happened that never can be wholly undone. And that I am playing a crucial role in this... story."

Frodo's breathing had become rapid, and he looked at Aragorn, who noticed the shadows under Frodo's eyes. The King knelt next to the hobbit, taking his hands reassuringly. „You did play a crucial role in this tale, Frodo Baggins. I guess all of us did. We still do! And none of us has to feel guilty. I see it in your eyes, Frodo. They are shadowed with guilt and weariness. It's about time that you let go of them. Slowly of course, my dear brave friend. Nobody could be rid of such terrible memories in such a short space of time. And you are strong. I don't know if I could have resisted the Evil for as long as you did."

"I did not resist it. If Sam had not been there, I would have given in to the seduction much earlier. Sam was the only one who has kept me sane. If I might call my state of mind in those dark days sane at all. I was not myself anymore. And believe me, I lost a part of myself somewhere on the Quest. A part of me I am afraid I will never regain. All that is left is a feeling of unworthiness, and guilt. And the only longing I feel is to go home and find that... that I am still there after all. That my soul is still... alive. That I am still real..."

Aragorn closed his eyes. A healer he was, and King, and so very aware of his tasks. But here, he failed. He tried to soothe the hobbit, to heal him, with all the skills he possessed, but there was no lasting result. Sooner or later Frodo would give in to his feelings of guilt and melancholy. And Aragorn asked himself how much he would have changed if he had to bear the Ring for such a long time. Frodo had changed in many ways, concerning his outer and inner appearance. He was not only paler than ever, but the bright light that was surrounding him more intensely with every day made him appear unearthly, and... ethereal. Was Frodo still home here at all? For Aragorn it seemed that the hobbit was searching for a hidden meaning, beyond the frontiers of this world. Frodo's eyes more often focused on things Aragorn could not follow.

Frodo's voice broke through his thoughts. "I would like a mug of tea now, and perhaps a little piece of seedcake. And I long to surround myself with my friends. I suppose being alone and thinking about too many things all the while will not proceed my healing process," Frodo said, with a catch in his voice, but a twinkle in his eye. He smiled at Aragorn, and took a deep breath. Aragorn took Frodo's hand and led him slowly inside.

Perhaps he was too impatient, Aragorn thought. There still was a chance that healing would come, after a while. Hope must never fade.